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Conversations with the Inspiring Rebekkah Cefai

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebekkah Cefai.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Rebekkah. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
When I was about fourteen years old, I remember rummaging through my parent’s garage until I came across my dad’s vintage Minolta. On family road trips, I brought this beat-up camera around with me and took photos of the Grand Canyon, the towering Sequoias, and the wind-swept deserts of California. I had no idea what I was doing, but I fell in love with the trial-and-error process. My photos were absolutely terrible and I definitely messed up a handful of rolls of film along the way, but I was determined to figure it out on my own. For money, I worked part-time at a smoothie shop and used my paychecks to get my film developed at Costco. A few years later, I took a black-and-white film photography class at a community college and saved enough money to buy my first digital SLR. I don’t know why I spent so much time and effort into this little hobby of mine, but soon enough, it snowballed into a side-gig and eventually, a business of my own. Looking back now, I feel like photography has given me a visual perspective – one that allows me to simultaneously notice the often-overlooked details and the larger picture at the same time.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been long and complicated, and there have definitely been times when I’ve wanted to quit everything and try something new. To begin with, the main obstacle has been trying to find my own voice and the passion behind the lens. With the advent of social media, I felt like my own creativity was drowned out by the visual noise and the inherent expectation to consistently post my work for some meaningless validation. To this day, I struggle with maintaining a balance between inspiration and influence. I’m amazed by a lot of the work I’ve seen from other artists, but I also feel like social media gives me anxiety about not being at the level that others are at in their careers.

Another thing I’ve struggled with is trying to decide how much I’m worth. I’ve undersold my work many times, and people tell me that I still do. But, I’ve learned that claiming the right price tag involves educating my clients on how much time and effort goes into a single photo shoot or a full-blown wedding. The whole saying, “Time is money” is true in every sense as a freelancer. Every minute spent researching locations, writing out contracts, emailing clients, editing photos or updating my website is a minute taken away from quality time with my family. It sounds crazy to me, but I’ve had to learn how to value my time so I don’t burn out completely. It’s all about finding that balance.

For all the young women out there who want to pursue a creative life, I’ll say this: “Keep at it.” We all need to encourage each other more often because nothing is more empowering and wonderful than someone else pushing you to do your best. In fact, a really good friend of mine (Nicole Mason) taught me a valuable phrase that I continue to remind myself each time I feel like I’m not good enough. She said, “You can’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.” I use this to remind myself that I’m a better photographer when I’m surrounded by other creative and like-minded people – those who have so much knowledge to share and who genuinely want to see you grow as an artist. Lately, I’ve stopped comparing myself and have decided that 2019 is all about creating the kind of work that makes me happy – not the type of work that will get as many likes on Instagram.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Most of my friends know me to be a lifestyle photographer with the bulk of my work consisting of families, weddings, and engagements. I’d say, about thirty percent of my work involves passion projects, where I collaborate with other makers such as Lisa Hsieh – a fashion designer and fellow mama who runs her own sustainable clothing line called Mien Studios. It’s great when people like her have ideas that align with yours, and Lisa has really given me the creative freedom, trust, and flexibility that I don’t get to experience often.

What I’m most proud of are the connections that I’ve made with most of my clients. I’ve been called to photograph couples from the year they became engaged, to then married, and ultimately to the time that they become new parents. It feels like I’m watching their lives unfold from a distance. That responsibility of creating memories for them has been so special and heartwarming. My artwork has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, allowing myself to learn how to interact with others to make them feel comfortable in front of a camera. Together, we embrace the vulnerability of capturing some really tearful moments, and it makes me incredibly lucky to share that joy with them.

Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
Nicole Mason: Always forward-thinking, not afraid to try new things or to make mistakes along the way. She travels the world and creates beautiful, documentary-style imagery.

Jessica Hamilton: Her floral work is out of this world. Her arrangements appear simple and effortless, but she does a good job of hiding the blood, sweat, and tears that go into each one of her projects. I’m consistently in awe of her incredible work ethic.

Jennifer Lopez: Smart, funny, always a good listener. She’s supportive of everyone and she validates my feelings. We never stop laughing together.

Lisa Hsieh: Relentless in her pursuit of creating functional pieces of clothing for mothers and children alike. Her heart is so big and she has supported me from the first day we met. She’s truly one of the sweetest, selfless women I know. We make a great team.

My sisters (Michelle, Sarah) and my mother (Rosa): For teaching me to be compassionate, kind, and patient in everything I do. These women remind me to take time for myself and to laugh off the frustrations, no matter how big or small.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Pat McCoy

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